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Assessment in general secondary education

Belgium - German-Speaking Community

6.Secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education

6.3Assessment in general secondary education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Pupil assessment

The freedom of education set out in the Constitution means, inter alia, that each pupil can freely decide on the evaluation and assessment modalities in his or her schools:

such as whether the performance assessment should take place in all subjects or only in a range of subjects, and whether and how often an examination period should be provided, whether all or part of the examinations should be written or oral, etc.

As a rule, every teacher or team of teachers assesses their students in terms of their goals and teaching. This is generally done after one or more lessons. The evaluation serves to determine the level of development and achievement of each pupil. It is therefore an integral part of the teaching and learning process.

The Basic Decree of 31st August 1998 distinguishes the formative evaluation and the normative assessment:

Formative evaluation

The formative evaluation pursues several goals:

•    to give the student important information on how to improve their learning and working behavior.

•    to give the teacher the opportunity to review his teaching activity and adjust it if necessary.

•    to provide the class council with important information for organizing accompanying measures for the student. It also provides information to the class council on how to effectively assist and support a student.

Normative evaluation

At the end of a learning process a normative assessment is carried out.

The normative evaluation assesses student performance and the normative ratings of a subject determine the passing of the school year.

The normative evaluation also includes the Christmas and junior examinations, which are usually carried out in all secondary schools in all subjects.

The examination in June is designed to verify that the student has the minimum skills needed to successfully complete his studies.

A student who still has too many gaps at the end of the school year after the junior examinations in a few subjects will be given the opportunity to take examinations at the end of the summer holidays in order to successfully complete the school year and to be able to move on to the next year.

The report accounts for the normative evaluations: it informs the pupils, the parents and the class council about:

•    the results achieved,

•    school progress

•     the attitude to learning

•    and the development of the personality.

Assessment is then continuous - e.g. two tests per subject per school year - and the decision about progression to the next year is determined by the governing body. Before this, real level pedagogy is not applied very often.

Progression of pupils

Even though, since the adoption of the foundational decree of 31 August 1998, secondary schools are organised into three levels of two years each (the 3rd level in vocational education can be three years) and the curriculum for all subjects is divided per level, progression to the next year is currently still decided, according to old tradition, at the end of each school year (in June). Thereby, the decision is formed based on the work completed during the year and the exam results, which are sat out twice a year, every school year, in all subjects. This decision is made by the governing body. The school administration can postpone their decision for some pupils so as to give them the chance to resit their exams at the end of August (since 2005). Theoretically, pupils can repeat every year. According to the foundational decree of 31 August 1998, is it intended that in the future, the decision as to whether the pupil should progress to the next level will only be made at the end of the first level (year 8) and at the end of the second level (year 10).

Up until now, the school still issues an orientation certificate at the end of the first five secondary school years (soon to be at the end of the first and second level) in addition to a certificate. There are three different orientation certificates:

•    Orientation certificate A, which indicates that the pupil has successfully completed the academic year (soon to be the level) and is allowed to progress to the next school year (soon to be the next level). Ideally, Orientation certificate A is completed at the end of the first level according to a report, in which a recommendation is given to the pupil as to which one of the three streams to enter as of the 2nd level and/or which specific fields of study to follow, or which subjects should be avoided;

•    Orientation certificate B, which indicates that the pupil has successfully completed the academic year (soon to be the level), but can only progress to the next year after paying consideration to certain restrictions. These restrictions can affect one or two streams or certain fields of study, or individual subjects that then remain closed to the pupil. The governing body and a PMS Centre consultant provide the pupil with recommendations to help them select a field of study that fits their interests and corresponds to their abilities. If, in the future, an Orientation certificate B should still remain mandatory or just a recommendation in the first level (observation level) is currently being discussed and no decision has been made as yet. A Secondary School decree is in the pipeline.

•    Orientation certificate C, which indicates that the pupil has not successfully completed the academic year (soon to be the level) and is not permitted to progress to the next year. This certificate indicates serious deficiencies. It concludes by giving a recommendation regarding the continuation of full-time school education or the possibility of part-time training: Part-time training in school and in one or multiple businesses or - within the framework of mid-tier organised training - an apprenticeship in a business. Whether, in the future, an Orientation certificate C should be issued in the first level is currently being discussed and a decision has not yet been made.


At the end of the first two levels of secondary education, a level certificate is awarded.

Standard secondary education concludes with the secondary school leaving certificate.

Pupils who have successfully completed the last two years of general secondary education in the same form of instruction, in the same type of instruction and in the same field of study shall be awarded a certificate of completion of upper secondary education, which is also the entrance qualification for studies.